There is tired, then there is pure exhaustion. If you’re a mom you know pure exhaustion well. Now dads, I can already hear your mental eye roll (no, you may not physically roll your eyes, but I know you’re thinking it… stop it), but this has absolutely nothing to do with you or how much or how little you do around the house or with your kids. Chances are, dad, you’re as much a part of household functions as mom is, BUT… and this is a big but (stop snickering, I know I said “big but”), moms typically tend to “run” the household. By “run” I mean schedule, plan, organize, get people to practices, games, school, family functions, llama meet-and-greets (alright, I made that one up, but I would go to one…), and generally make sure all bases are covered.
I never really thought much about it until a friend and coworker posted an article and comic about the mental load working mothers bear (head on over to Working Mother if you’d like to see the original article). I’m going to stop right there… working mothers? Uhhhhhh… hold up. Working. Mothers. A bit redundant? Whether you work OUTSIDE the home or INSIDE the home it is work. Working full-time before kids, full-time with kids, and part-time with kids, I can tell you it is ALL work. Disregard whether or not moms work outside the home, I think the author and creator of the comic in the Working Mother article were spot on on one thing: the mental load of a mom. For example, here is my stream of thought after waking this morning:
- *alarm sounds* I hear rain. Where is the neurotic dog? I need to take him out before he hears thunder and won’t pee and poop in the yard. If he doesn’t pee and poop before we leave I’ll have to clean his cage when I get home from work after getting two kids and all of my crap out of the car. I really don’t want to have to do that before I start preparing dinner. Wait. I need to pee. Ok, I’ll go pee, then take the dog out. I use the restroom, take the dog outside in the pouring rain, he uses the restroom, we come back inside.
- By this time the dog is shaking because, well, rain and neurotic dogs don’t mix. I give the dog medication so he’ll at least be able to semi-function without having a heart attack.
- By now I’m running late, so I hop in the shower. In the shower I think about the dinner I need to make for the night, the dinner for the next night when we’re having company, and the work carry-in the next day. I ordered groceries for a pickup the day before that my husband picked up, but I forgot the most important ingredient for the carry-in dish, so I have to pick it up from the store when I get off work. I then realize a few other things that would be good to have, so I should probably try to get it all in in one trip. I’ll need to remember to add that to the current list I have on my phone. It’s trash night. When I get home I need to empty our large trash can, remember to empty the diaper pail, because, well, poopy diapers stink. I should also take the trash and recycling to the curb when I get home so we don’t have to do it later because I try to go to the gym to get my hour work out in for the week (I realize working out an hour a week does nothing, but hey… Swerking is fun-check it out!). By this time I’m about finished with my shower.
- Hop out of the shower, dry off, apply deodorant, face cream (because I’m over 30 now… those wrinkles won’t fix themselves in the future and btw… why do I STILL have acne at 31????), lotion, Bio Oil (because stretch marks). Check on the baby real quick because he usually needs to eat by now, trip over the neurotic shaking dog a few more times. Put stuff in my hair so it doesn’t look too much like all I did was let it air dry, which I did. Put a little makeup on so I don’t scare anyone (again… wrinkles, acne… don’t nobody wanna see that hot mess). Head to get dressed.
- Crap. What I thought about wearing in my head last night won’t work because it’s pouring outside. What goes with my bright red Hunter boots? Nope. Not that… ok, that doesn’t fit anymore. Probably should add that to my Poshmark closet to sell (yeah… that’s not working out so great for me-apparently no one wants my pre-baby clothes). It’s kind of a fat day so that won’t look that great, but oh well. It matches and is comfortable. I’ll only be at work half the day anyway. Throw it on, add some accessories, good to go.
- Baby hasn’t eaten yet, so I start a bottle. Turn off all of the outside lights, open the blinds in the family room-my succulents need light, guys! Feed the fish who hasn’t been cleaned in 2 1/2 weeks (yeah… he should be cleaned weekly… hang in there, Sherman!), open the dining room blinds-more succulents need light. And water. They really need water-I’ll remember to water them when I get home. Yep, I told myself that yesterday and the day before, too.
- By this time my husband is up and is getting the baby dressed with the clothes I laid out the night before because I KNEW I would run late in the morning and things would just go faster if I made sure the kids’ clothes were ready for the morning. Trip over the dog again and realize I hadn’t packed a lunch. Then I remember there are no leftovers because the grocery was out of the main ingredient I needed for dinner last night so my husband ventured back out for Tropical Smoothie instead so now I don’t have a lunch. Frozen dinner. Oh no… only 2 of those left. I’ll add that to the list of things I need to get at the store today. What did I think of when I was in the shower that needed to be added to the list? Dang it… what was it???? Oh, yeah-coffee. I then realize I haven’t had coffee yet either. Make the coffee, get our oldest out of bed, he starts getting himself dressed, feed the baby, put him in his car seat that my husband brought out.
- Rinse some blueberries, put them in my lunchbox, gather all of my belongings, tell the oldest to get his shoes on, then I think about the shoes I meant to buy him because his are worn out and he has no Velcro shoes when preschool starts this month. He also needs to start learning how to tie his shoes. We’ll work on that soon, I tell myself for the millionth time. I carry everything out to the car, forget my frozen dinner, pull one out of the freezer, put it in my lunch box.
- My husband loads the baby into the car, the dog runs out the door, my husband gets the dog back inside, buckles our oldest into his booster seat, I get in the car.
- We start pulling out of the driveway around 7:30. I woke up at 6:15. All of this in an hour and 15 minutes. This is just the START of my day. Haven’t been to work, haven’t even dropped the kids off at my mom and dad’s house for the day (yes… I have the best mom in the world who hangs out with our kids all day while I’m at work 3 days a week-you rock, mom!). This is just getting ready for the day.
Now, part of this is personality. Ok, ok… most of this is personality. It’s how I’m wired. My guess is that most women are wired this way. Is that wrong? Nope. From my observations there’s a reason-moms try to make sure all of the bases are covered. Are people fed? Are they clothed? Are they clean? Am I two steps ahead so I’m not three steps behind in 5 minutes? Moms are multi-taskers. They have to be to anticipate everyone’s needs. Dads? I’ll do the task I’m doing and don’t interrupt me until I’m finished because I can’t even chew gum and walk at the same time. Guys, this is not an insult. I repeat, put your weapons down, this IS NOT an insult.
This is where I disagree with the comic and the article’s solution: there is no “solution”. Personalities, families, and people in general are all different. I can’t say enough about how much of the load my husband shares. I now work part-time, so I feel it’s only fair for me to do a little more around the house than he does. I’m at home far more than he is, but when he is home he’s either keeping the kids occupied, taking care of them, or helping clean up, so he definitely does his share without being asked, then asks what else I need when he doesn’t know what to help with. The problem isn’t even “doing more”… it’s how can I think less. That will never happen for me-I constantly plan, think, and compartmentalize in my head, which cannot be changed. What can change is to make sure I communicate when it becomes too much to handle and I start to burn out. I think everyone deals with this differently. I have friends who run/jog, work out, binge watch TV, craft, read, write, color, paint, you name it. Find what it is that helps you decompress and DO IT. Let people know when you’ve hit your mental limit. How can you pour from an empty cup? If your cup is empty, do what you need to do to fill it! Keep up the great work, moms! Even if you think it goes unnoticed, it doesn’t. Your kids see you-they may not notice it now, but trust me, they’ll realize it when they’re older. You rock, mom.